What Happens to Credit Card Debt After Someone Dies?

Dealing with a loved one’s passing is difficult to process. Not only are you dealing with immense emotional distress, but many also deal with the financial upheaval in planning for a funeral. After a few weeks, you may begin receiving bills and other documents in the deceased’s name. You open the envelope and discover that your loved one’s final business hasn’t been settled – credit card companies and collectors still looking for payment on their outstanding balances.

Unfortunately, this is an incredibly common scenario for many Americans. Whether death is unexpected or the result of a long illness, those who are left behind are forced to confront the deceased’s spending habits, savings, and debts. Even though the deceased may have an estate and will to help hash out money matters and assets, creditors are prioritized over family and other loved ones. Beneficiaries named in the estate’s documentation are not guaranteed the specified amount that is left to them.

It is important, as the estate executor, that you follow steps to make sure the estate’s remaining finances are protected. When someone dies, it is the duty of the appointed representative to order a credit report in the deceased’s name, contact all creditors with copies of the death certificate, and specify if any debts were shared with a currently living person. Creditors will try to “jump ahead” in line by preying on emotions to get paid out before others, and it does often work on the deceased’s loved ones, but stay strong and don’t fall for their ploys. Make sure that all creditors and credit bureaus issue notices to not lend credit to the social security number associated with the deceased to prevent fraud.

Another option is to get a lawyer or financial advisor. If there is enough money left behind to comfortably pay for their expertise, it is highly recommended. The representative will be well-versed in the business of managing finances and can allow you time to properly grieve. Estate planners suggest that a last will and testament be drafted while you are still alive and well so that there is no ambiguity when it is read and assessed.

Of course, none of us want to think about having to take care of these issues, but statistics show that at least one intimate death will take place during your lifetime that you will have to help manage in final planning. It is an unenjoyable aspect of life, but it can turn into a final act of love and dedication by leaving their legacy free of conflict and miscommunication.

Sound off in the comments – are you prepared to plan for your final expenses? Do you have a loved one you can trust with your assets? Or are you too uncomfortable with the idea that you’d rather avoid it? We want to hear from you!